Apologies for missing last Friday. Real life just got in the way at the end of last week.
Written by Randee Russell and Ira Steven Behr
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 4, Episode 20
Production episode 40274-194
Original air date: April 22, 1991
Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is hosting an archeological conference on Tagus III, and Picard is giving the keynote address. He’s more than a little apprehensive about the speech, and Troi has to convince him to stop fiddling with it and get some sleep. He goes to his quarters and discovers a horga’hn on his coffee table—and Vash in the doorway to his bedroom.
She spends the night, and they share morning tea. When Picard asks if she’s on the archeology council, she gives an evasive “more or less,” and he is worried that she came to Tagus III for less than moral reasons.
The doorchime rings and Picard gets a look of horror on his face. His worst nightmare is on the other side of that door: Crusher, intending to join him for morning tea. Vash knows all about Crusher, which is more than Crusher can say for Vash. Slightly peeved that Picard never mentioned her, Vash asks Crusher for a tour of the ship, which Picard desperately wants not to happen but which he cannot forbid and maintain what little of his dignity remains.
Crusher takes Vash to Ten-Forward, where Riker hits on her right up until she reveals that she’s a friend of Picard’s. (Apparently Picard does an excellent impersonation of Riker.) When Crusher is summoned to sickbay, Riker takes over the tour, taking her to the bridge, where she sits in his chair.
Later on, at the reception, Vash rips into Picard for not saying anything to any of his friends about her. She didn’t expect gory details, but the fact that she exists would have been nice. She tartly apologizes that her presence embarrasses him and stalks off.
Picard returns to the bridge in a foul mood, which only worsens when he enters his ready room to see Q in his chair. Q feels he owes Picard a debt for saving his ass in “Déjà Q,” and that gnaws at him. He wants to give Picard a gift in return—perhaps helping him with his keynote address? Q can actually take him to the Tagan ruins, which were sealed off a century ago. Q even offers to take him back in time to see Tagus III two billion years earlier, but Picard refuses.
Q leaves in disgust. Picard tells Riker that Q’s back and he wants to do something nice for Picard. Riker gravely replies, “I’ll alert the crew.”
Picard goes to Vash’s quarters, intending to apologize—but then he sees a padd with a map of the ruins, as well as digging equipment. Picard won’t let her use his ship to steal artifacts from Tagus III and sell them, but Vash won’t change who she is to suit him. The conversation ends angrily and awkwardly—and is also overheard by Q.
Q then shows up as Picard is going to bed. He views Picard’s affection for Vash as his Achilles Heel, a vulnerability that Q himself has been trying to find in Picard for four years now. (He comments that if he’d known, he’d have shown up in a female form the first time.)
The next day, Picard begins his keynote address. The archeology council is in attendance, along with Riker, Data, La Forge, Crusher, Troi, and Worf in the back row out of support. In mid-speech, the crew is put into costumes and transported to a forest that, based on all the oak trees and the clothing, is on Earth in the 12th century, specifically Sherwood Forest. (Actually, the clothing isn’t all that authentic, but we’ll let that go.) Picard in green and with a bow and arrow is Robin Hood; Riker’s big staff (wah-HEY!) identifies him as Little John. Worf, all in red, is Will Scarlet (“I protest—I am not a merry man!”), with the lute-wielding La Forge as Alan-a-Dale, and Data, in brown robes and with a new haircut, as well as a big-ass turkey leg, is Friar Tuck.
Sir Guy of Gisborne shows up with soldiers. Worf wastes no time whipping out his sword and attacking; he’s wounded, but keeps fighting until Picard orders a retreat into the forest.
Q then arrives as the Sheriff of Nottingham, telling Picard that Vash is also in this re-creation as Marian, whose execution has been scheduled for the following day at noon. Q has given the scenario a life of its own, so he has no control over what happens.
At the castle, Vash is struggling to figure out what the hell’s going on. She’s in a dress that she can’t even walk in (Jennifer Hetrick apparently tripped on one take, and they decided to keep it, since Vash wouldn’t be used to such clothing), she has no idea who Guy of Gisborne is, and she doesn’t know why she’s being called “Marian.”
When Sir Guy informs her that she’ll be executed if she refuses to marry him, she immediately starts being nice to Sir Guy—not wanting to actually be killed.
Back in the forest, Picard announces that he’s going to rescue “Marian” himself. This is personal between him and Q, and he goes off alone, ordering Riker to stay in the forest with the others.
In the castle, Q is surprised to learn that Marian has agreed to marry Sir Guy, a twist he hadn’t expected. After she’s escorted to her chambers, Picard comes in through the window to bring her back to Sherwood Forest.
Vash is less than impressed with his plan, especially since he came alone. She doesn’t think highly of their chances of getting out of the castle just the two of them, and insists she’s going to stay. When Sir Guy comes in with soldiers, Picard tries to escape—but Vash grabs his sword and holds him at bay, offering him as a wedding present for Sir Guy.
However, after Picard is taken, Vash writes a letter to Riker asking for help. Before she can get it sent, Q enters, identifying himself, and expressing his admiration for Vash’s ruthlessness—and her duplicity, once he sees the letter. She warrants further study—but sadly, she has betrayed Sir Guy, and he has her taken away.
As they head to the chopping block, Picard and Vash bicker and argue nonstop as Q and Sir Guy condemn them to death. However, the rest of the crew are there in disguise, having unsurprisingly disobeyed Picard’s orders to stay put. Data tosses a piece from his arm into a brazier to cause a distracting explosion, and the rescue commences. Picard takes on Sir Guy in a very Errol Flynn-like swordfight on the stairs, and the soldiers are taken care of by the rest of the crew. Picard and Vash are reunited in safety, and Picard calls for Q to end it.
Q says that if Picard has realized that he could’ve gotten himself, Vash, and his senior staff killed, all for “the love of a maid,” then Q’s debt is repaid. Love has brought out the worst in him—but Vash argues that it brought out the best. Either way, Q sends them all back to the ship —
— except for Vash, with whom he has come to an arrangement (one that apparently includes wearing silly safari outfits). He’s going to show her the galaxy. Picard thinks it’s a terrible idea, as Q is devious, amoral, unrealiable, irresponsible, and untrustworthy—much, Picard realizes, like Vash. Picard insists that, to pay the debt in full Q owes him, he will guarantee Vash’s safety, which he does.
Picard and Vash have a final kiss goodbye, and then she and Q hie off to see the universe. And heaven help the universe…
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: For reasons that make no sense whatsoever beyond good old-fashioned sexism, Crusher and Troi are forced to fight in the climactic battle sequence with pots that they break over other people’s heads. To make matters worse, Marina Sirtis and Gates McFadden both have sword training, which is more than can be said for the others (something made abundantly clear by LeVar Burton’s hilariously clumsy fencing). Director Cliff Bole tried to justify it by saying it fit the period, and that he can’t change history, which is bogus on every level, not the least of which being that it isn’t history (and there were plenty of other inaccuracies floating around in terms of costuming and weaponry).
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: While everyone remembers “I am not a merry man!” Worf’s finest bit in this episode is when he grabs the lute from La Forge’s hands and smashes it into a tree, then hands it back and mutters, “Sorry.” It was a very deliberate tribute to National Lampoon’s Animal House (the only one in Star Trek history), and a true classic moment.
No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Picard gets his personal life put on display for the crew, much to his chagrin, but that chagrin is as nothing compared to his agony when Crusher and Vash first meet in the every-guy’s-nightmare scenario.
I Believe I Said That: “Jean-Luc, it’s wonderful to see you again. How about a big hug?”
Q’s greeting for Picard.
Welcome Aboard: Besides the triumphant return of John deLancie as Q and Jennifer Hetrick as Vash, both last seen in the third season, this episode also features an excellent turn by Clive Revill as Sir Guy. Revill was a regular on the short-lived Probe, which Michael Piller worked on, and he’s also one of the few actors to appear in the two Stars, both Trek and Wars—he played Emperor Palpatine in the original release of The Empire Strikes Back (later editions of the film inserted Ian McDiarmid, who played the role in all the other Star Wars films, into the part).
Trivial Matters: In your humble rewatcher’s novel Q & A, he was able to tie almost all of Q’s appearances together into a particular purpose. At the novel’s end, when the universe is saved and all is right with the world, Picard turns to Q and says that he understands how almost everything related to this—except for the Robin Hood scenario from this episode. What, Picard asks, was the purpose of that? Q shrugs and says, “I just wanted to see you in tights, Jean-Luc.”
Q makes good on his promise to bring Picard back in time to Tagus III in Greg Cox’s Q-Continuum trilogy (specifically the first book, Q-Space).
Vash will next appear, alongside Q, in the Deep Space Nine episode “Q-Less.” (Unsurprisingly, she’ll get along with Quark like a house on fire.) Vash also plays a large role in the Millennium trilogy by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens. She’s never again seen on screen with Picard.
Q’s next appearance, however, will be in the sixth season’s “True Q.” Q won’t appear at all in TNG‘s fifth season (the only season he’s absent from), but he’ll appear three times in the 1992/93 season, twice on TNG (“True Q” and “Tapestry”) as well as the aforementioned DS9 guest shot.
This episode was released the same year as two Robin Hood films, one a mediocre but successful theatrical release starring Kevin Costner subtitled Prince of Thieves, the other a vastly underrated FOX TV-movie starring Patrick Bergin that was superior in virtually every way (the exception being Alan Rickman as a far greater villain in the former film than Jeroen Krabbe was in the latter). Sir Patrick Stewart would later go on to appear in the parody film Robin Hood: Men in Tights as King Richard the Lionheart.
Make it So: “Nice legs—for a human.” Easily the slightest of the Q episodes, this one is fun as long as you don’t think about it too much. As usual, the best part is deLancie’s smarm as Q and his banter with Stewart. The episode is full of laugh-out-loud moments, some intentional (pretty much everything Worf says and does), some not so much (La Forge’s swordfighting). And everyone looks great in the costumes, which owe a great deal more to the 1938 Errol Flynn film than the actual 12th century.
And honestly, the whole episode is worth it for Worf channeling Bluto.
But the “lesson” is weak, Q’s prattling about love ridiculous, the sexism overbearing. (Seriously, why can’t Crusher and Troi just pick up a sword, for crying out loud, and let La Forge be the one to bash people over the head?) And Stewart and Jennifer Hetrick haven’t acquired any more chemistry since “Captain’s Holiday.” In fact, Vash proves to have more snap in her scenes with Crusher, Riker, Q, and Sir Guy than she ever does with her alleged love interest, which takes the wind out of the episode’s sails.
Still, it’s dopey fun. And you do get to see Sir Patrick Stewart in both short-shorts and tights…
Warp factor rating: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that it’s the nominating period for the Parsec Awards. You should totally go to their web site and nominate the podcasts he’s involved with: The Chronic Rift, The Dome, HG World, and, of course, Dead Kitchen Radio: The Keith R.A. DeCandido Podcast.